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Coping with dogs' phobias

I’m currently working with a number of dogs that have phobias. A couple are afraid of sudden noises, one is shy of strangers, another hates travelling in the car and the rest have issues with other dogs.

I’m currently working with a number of dogs that have phobias. A couple are afraid of sudden noises, one is shy of strangers, another hates travelling in the car and the rest have issues with other dogs.

They all have caring owners who are extremely sympathetic and their phobias are getting worse. What started as a mild aversion to other dogs now triggers an attack, a dislike of strangers now causes the dog to bolt and a noise that once startled the dog now sends it into complete shutdown. These dogs don’t need sympathy, they need help.

Imagine you are trapped at the bottom of deep well. A passerby hears your cry for help do you want tears and sympathy or a long rope? All these dogs have had enough sympathy to last them a lifetime: they need a rope.

In order for a dog (or a human) to overcome fear they must face it, running or hiding away is not an option. You must eliminate any trace of emotion and with a confident demeanour walk your dog past the object of his fear without breaking your stride.

Don’t overwhelm him, if he doesn’t like noises don’t fire a canon down his ear. Have a helper rattle a can or shake a polythene bag while you walk him confidently by from 30 yards away. Correct him with the lead for any overtly fearful reaction. Under no circumstances should you coddle or coax him.

Slowly increase his exposure to fear preferably while he is preoccupied doing something he enjoys. This is the only way your dog will ever overcome fear. As with humans, medication is only ever a stop gap. Most importantly of all YOU must regard his phobia as no big deal and handle it accordingly.

Read more training tips on Vic’s website: www.vicbarlow.com , and read Vic's earlier columns by clicking here .

 
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